How does a team that’s lost nine of its last 10 games have a fighting chance of making the NCAA tournament field?

Because the NCAA selection committee would analyze 13-11 Indiana’s overall body of work.

The Hoosiers have three Quadrant 1 (top-30 home/top-75 road) victories with wins against projected No. 2 seed Michigan State, No. 3 Marquette and No. 4 Louisville. 

Never mind a mediocre 47 score in the NET, the NCAA’s new metric replacing the RPI.

The committee will look at everything, including a non-conference slate where the Hoosiers faced Duke and ranked in the lower 100s.

Meanwhile, a team like N.C. State might have a far better NET score of 35. But the Wolf Pack have the country’s worst non-conference strength of schedule out of all 353 teams.  

Indiana Hoosiers guard Romeo Langford (0) and forward Juwan Morgan (13) talk after a timeout in the second half against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Assembly Hall. (Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski, USA TODAY Sports)

Other initial surprises on the current bubble line might be several mid-majors snatching at-large bids.

The NCAA tournament has featured fewer and fewer true mid-major conferences securing multiple bids in the last decade, with only an occasional West Coast Conference team serving as the outlier. 

But if the committee examines all the data properly and offers smaller teams a fair shake, 2019’s field could buck the trend of stellar mid-majors getting left out. This year the Ohio Valley and Southern conferences have two teams good enough to go dancing.

While Wofford (No. 27 NET) is a comfortable No. 8 seed and leading the Southern standings, second-place UNC-Greensboro (No. 45 NET) has the profile to squeeze in as an at-large No. 12 seed.

And while Murray State leads the OVC standings, Belmont (No. 60 NET, No. 43 non-conference strength of schedule) also is a projected No. 12 seed — as a play-in game in the bracket.

And if projected No. 8 seed Buffalo of the MAC (No. 22 NET) or No. 10 Lipscomb of the Atlantic Sun (No. 30 NET) lose in their conference tournament, then their résumés would also be worthy of at-large bids. 

One reason mid-majors have more of a shot at punching tourney tickets is largely based on it being a softer bubble this year, with power teams’ credentials less impressive.

Another reason is that these handful of mid-majors are doing what’s necessary in non-conference action to stay in the top 50 or 60 of the NET rankings — to make up for lesser in-conference opponents.

The RPI was never a consistent metric and often didn’t favor mid-majors. NET won’t be perfect math, either. But elite mid-major teams this year challenged themselves in non-conference play enough to shift the narrative.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN

Results/records shown are against Division I opponents only. Breakdown data as of Feb. 11.

Temple (Out for now)

Profile: 17-7 (7-4) 55 NET, 57 SoS, 191 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Houston, Davidson, South Florida, Memphis, Missouri
  • The Bad: Loss to Penn

UCF (Out for now)

Profile: 16-5 (6-3) 46 NET, 96 SoS, 142 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Alabama, Temple, Connecticut
  • The Bad: Loss to Florida Atlantic

Clemson (In for now)

Profile: 15-8 (5-5) 37 NET, 25 SoS, 108 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Virginia Tech, Lipscomb
  • The Bad: No bad losses

North Carolina State (Out for now)

Profile: 17-7 (5-6) 35 NET, 250 SoS, 353 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Auburn, Clemson, Penn State
  • The Bad: Loss to Wake Forest

St. John’s (In for now)

Profile: 17-7 (5-6) 49 NET, 61 SoS, 217 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Marquette (twice), VCU, Creighton (twice), Georgetown
  • The Bad: Losses to Providence, DePaul

Seton Hall  (In for now)

Profile: 14-9 (5-6) 65 NET, 38 SoS, 78 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kentucky, Maryland, St. John’s, Creighton, Butler
  • The Bad: Losses to DePaul, Saint Louis

Butler (In for now)

Profile: 14-10 (5-6) 53 NET, 29 SoS, 68 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Florida, Georgetown, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Creighton, Seton Hall,
  • The Bad: Losses to DePaul, Saint Louis

Providence (Out for now)

Profile: 14-10 (4-7) 74 NET, 62 SoS, 159 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Texas, Saint John’s, Seton Hall
  • The Bad: Losses to DePaul, Wichita State, Massachusetts

Creighton (Out for now)

Profile: 12-11 (4-7) 57 NET, 11 SoS, 22 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Clemson, Georgetown, Butler, East Tennessee State, Providence
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Georgetown (Out for now)

Profile: 15-9 (5-6) 78 NET, 81 SoS, 216 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Saint John’s, Butler, Liberty, Providence
  • The Bad: Losses to SMU, Loyola Marymount

Ohio State (In for now)

Profile: 15-7 (5-6) 38 NET, 55 SoS, 130 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Cincinnati, Nebraska, Creighton, Minnesota, Indiana
  • The Bad: Loss to Rutgers

Minnesota (In for now)

Profile: 16-8 (6-7) 58 NET, 64 SoS, 223 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Wisconsin, Iowa, Washington, Nebraska
  • The Bad: Losses to Illinois, Boston College

Indiana (In for now)

Profile: 13-11 (4-9) 47 NET, 30 SoS, 126 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Michigan State, Louisville, Marquette, Butler
  • The Bad: Loss to Rutgers

Nebraska (Out for now)

Profile: 12-11 (3-10) 40 NET, 82 SoS, 234 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Clemson, Indiana, Seton Hall, Creighton
  • The Bad: Losses to Illinois, Rutgers

TCU (In for now)

Profile: 17-6 (5-5) 32 NET, 28 SoS, 84 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Iowa State, Baylor, Texas, Florida
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Texas (In for now)

Profile: 14-10 (6-5) 33 NET, 6 SoS, 9 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma 
  • The Bad: Losses to Providence, Radford, Georgia

Oklahoma (In for now)

Profile: 15-9 (3-8) 42 NET, 10 SoS, 11 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Wofford, Florida, TCU, Creighton
  • The Bad: Loss to West Virginia

Arizona State (In for now)

Profile: 16-7 (7-4) 72 NET, 72 SoS, 65 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kansas, Washington, Mississippi State, Utah State, Arizona, Oregon
  • The Bad: Losses to Southern California, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Utah, Princeton, Washington State

Arizona (Out for now)

Profile: 14-10 (5-6) 84 NET, 69 SoS, 59 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Iowa State, Connecticut
  • The Bad: Losses to Southern California, UCLA, Washington State

Oregon (Out for now)

Profile: 14-9 (5-5) 70 NET, 70 SoS, 61 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Syracuse, Arizona
  • The Bad: Losses to Oregon State, UCLA, Texas Southern

Ole Miss (In for now)

Profile: 16-7 (6-4) 36 NET, 76 SoS, 147 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Auburn, Mississippi State, Baylor, Arkansas
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Auburn (In for now)

Profile: 15-7 (5-5) 20 NET, 34 SoS, 57 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Washington, Florida, Alabama, Murray State, Arizona
  • The Bad: Loss to South Carolina

Alabama (In for now)

Profile: 15-8 (6-4) 43 NET, 24 SoS, 72 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Liberty, Murray State, Arizona
  • The Bad: Losses to Northeastern, Texas A&M, Georgia State

Florida (Out for now)

Profile: 12-11 (4-6) 41 NET, 27 SoS, 134 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Arkansas, Ole Miss, Butler
  • The Bad: Loss to South Carolina

Arkansas (Out for now)

Profile: 14-9 (5-5) 62 NET, 41 SoS, 64 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. LSU, Indiana
  • The Bad: Losses to South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Western Kentucky

Wofford (In for now)

Profile: 18-4 (13-0) 27 NET, 159 SoS, 144 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. North Carolina Greensboro, East Tennessee State (twice), Furman
  • The Bad: No bad losses

VCU (In for now)

Profile: 17-6 (8-2) 44 NET, 35 SoS, 5 NonCon SoS (Currently IN as AQ)

  • The Good: Wins vs. Texas, Temple, Hofstra
  • The Bad: Loss to Charleston

Lipscomb (In for now)

Profile: 18-4 (11-0) 30 NET, 213 SoS, 41 NonCon SoS (Currently IN as AQ)

  • The Good: Wins vs. TCU, Liberty, Vermont
  • The Bad: No bad losses

UNC Greensboro (In for now)

Profile: 20-3 (11-1) 45 NET, 188 SoS, 177 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. East Tennessee State, Furman
  • The Bad: No bad losses

Belmont (In for now)

Profile: 18-4 (10-2) 60 NET, 146 SoS, 49 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Lipscomb (twice), UCLA, Murray State
  • The Bad: Jacksonville State (twice), Green Bay

Murray State (Out for now)

Profile:  17-4 (10-2) 64 NET, 282 SoS 206 NonCon Sos (Currently IN as AQ)

  • The Good: No good wins
  • The Bad: Jacksonville State

Davidson (Out for now)

Profile: 16-6 (8-2) 69 NET, 107 SoS, 111 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Win vs. VCU
  • The Bad: Losses to Saint Joseph’s, Wake Forest, Massachusetts

Saint Mary’s (Out for now)

Profile: 15-10 (6-4) 50 NET, 37 SoS, 91 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. New Mexico State, San Francisco
  • The Bad: Losses to Western Kentucky, UC Irvine, Harvard, Pepperdine

Utah State (Out for now)

Profile: 17-6 (8-3) 39 NET, 117 SoS, 54 NonCon SoS

  • The Good: Wins vs. Saint Mary’s, Fresno State
  • The Bad: Loss to San Diego State

***

NCAA tourney Language Explainer:

  • Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
  • Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
  • Quadrant 3 wins, losses: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
  • Quadrant 4 wins, losses: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET

Note: Mostly all statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NCAA’s new NET rankings are also considered; that was rolled out at the beginning of 2018-19. 

About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his sixth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past five March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.